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One thing I never expected was the vast and obvious differences between the mountain atmosphere and culture in French/European & Canadian/North American resorts. (They all speak French so must be similar, right?) Perhaps I was being a little naive but I had literally assumed that the experience would be pretty similar to my usual ski trips (in Europe) but with a little 9-5 in between. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Here is a list of a few of the more noticeable differences between skiing in Canada & Europe.
- While lift passes that stay in your pocket and are scanned are the norm in Europe, North American resorts have only just started switching to this RFID technology. I actually thought it was mental that Whistler only implemented it last year (14/15) seeing as they are the top North American Ski resort, but, hard as it is to believe, its true!
- I find that the runs seem much longer and wider in Canada, whereas the ski runs in France are made up of a lot of shorter runs even though they cover a larger area and due to that you can get a lot more variety with the riding you do.
- One of the things I love about skiing in Europe is the variety of restaurants dotted all over the mountain, you can find some delightful lil gems tucked away and the food is just to die for. In Canada you will notice the lack of this, almost how you miss your hair when you first get it cut. You’re so used to it brushing your shoulders and then BAM! It’s gone. Much as I loved Whistler, giant over-crowded lunchrooms will never beat a cozy little lodge discovered in the middle of nowhere.
- There is no real drinking on the mountain, you can get beers and there is a small selection of drinks available in the lunchrooms, but nothing like the gigantic bars that dominate the mountains after 3pm in Europe.
- Following on from the last point, the après scene is VERY, VERY different. I know that the cultures are distinctive of course, but there are no mad parties or drunken riding back down the mountain in Canada, and for me that is an integral part of my daily experience in Europe (I suppose that is the British gal in me ;))
- The nightlife is also different. Yeah, I know this isn’t particularly skiing but it’s an essential part of the holiday experience right? While in Europe you will ski, then booze hard at après, followed by a nap and dinner ready to go clubbing till 3 or 4am, in Canada this is just not a thing, and it couldn’t be if you wanted it to. In BC the licencing means that anything overground cant play loud music past 1am, and underground past 2am. So be prepared for the nights starting and ending a lot earlier than you are used to (or vice versa of course, depending on where you are based).
- No smoking on the mountain. There are no designated smoking areas, and Whistler has now banned it completely. While I think this is a great move forward, if you are used to the lax attitude to tobacco in Europe, be prepared for heavily regulated laws in Canada.
- Get used to seeing a lot of boarders in North America. I don’t know if its due to the sheer amount of pow, or general steeziness, but there are a lot of boarders in Canada compared to what I’ve ever seen before in Europe.
- Riding park seems to be a much bigger deal in Canada. I’m not sure if I can put this down to the crowd I was with in BC, but I had never heard park talked about so much. Perhaps us Europeans are a bit pussy.
- The lifts are open waaaaay longer in Europe. I’ve seen some open till 6pm before, I think the latest in Canada is those at the very bottom till 4pm. Maybe that’s why theres a more relaxed feel to Euro skiing cos there’s simply more time to do it.
- The lift etiquette is so much better. Like seriously you would think the people that invented the bloody queue and their neighbors would be good at it but no, in Europe it’s a total f*cking mess and a free for all. I’ve seen fights break out before over a stupid queue. In Canada this is NOT the case. Maybe the people are more chill, or their super politeness stops them from turning into total dickheads but everything is done in an orderly fashion and during busy times the gondis are properly filled. Nothing worse when your standing in a massive angry mob queue and the French lifties let up a 4 chair with 1 manspreader on it.
So just a little insight into what to expect! Hopefully you wont be as surprised as me (Hey, I was pleasantly surprised most of the time)
Do you prefer skiing in North America or Europe? What differences have you noticed? Tell me all about it!